Look down any crowded train carriage or busy street in Japan and you’re guaranteed to find the majority of people with their heads bent over their mobile phones or other electronic devices. And while there’s no end of anthropologists twittering on about the damage all this constant stimulus is doing to the youth of today, there’s also a very physical risk that can come with cell phone addiction.
The number of ambulance call-outs for people who have been injured due to using their smartphones while walking or driving is on the rise.
According to statistics from the Tokyo Fire Department, 36 people were injured in 2013 compared to 23 in 2010. While the numbers are still thankfully in the double digits, that’s an increase of 50 percent compared to four years ago. Last year the biggest cause of smartphone-related accidents (26 people) was people using their phones or looking at the screens, and the next (5 people) were injured while talking on the phone. This indicates that it’s smartphones with their touch-enabled screens and myriad functions that are the main culprit.
And the numbers are rising year by year as smartphone usage continues to proliferate, to the point that the fire department has deemed it serious enough to issue a warning, saying that ‘It is very dangerous as not only is there the danger of harming yourself, but also of involving surrounding people in an accident.’
▼ “Playing on your phone while walking is dangerous! (Although you probably won’t actually see this notice)”
In the four years from 2010 to the end of 2013, a total of 122 people were involved in accidents connected to their phone usage. The most common age group to be involved in such an accident was people in their 40s, followed by those in their 20s. As for the types of accidents, around 40 percent were classed as ‘collisions’, followed by ‘falls’ as the next most common. Around 80 percent of people only sustained mild injuries, but there were cases that involved hospitalization and even death.
▼ “People who play on their phones while walking. People who are avoided by everyone around them.”
One such case occurred in October 2013 in Itabashi Ward, when a 47-year-old man wandered out onto a railroad crossing while engrossed in using his phone. Tragically, the man was hit by a train and died. In May of the same year at JR Yotsuya Station in Shinjuku Ward a 10-year-old boy was walking along the platform while playing on his phone. He ended up falling onto the line and sustained serious injuries.
Due to incidents such as these, it’s now common to see safety posters in train stations reminding passengers to pay attention to where they’re going. Large companies are also launching internal campaigns to raise awareness amongst their staff, and stop people bumping into each other as they rush along the corridors to meetings while trying to answer a bazillion emails, tweet what they had for breakfast, and text their fridge to see if they’re out of milk.
It might seem silly having to warn grown adults about something that seems like common sense, but if it can stop these needless deaths from happening then these campaigns will surely have been worth it.